This is cause for celebration…

November 23, 2009

I finished a draft of my book!

That’s right, I’ve written through the entire manuscript. It feels like a huge accomplishment. I’m ready to move onto the next stage: revision.

Actually, I’m already well into the revision process. I’ve edited 16 of my 33 chapters. At least one critique partner has read through them, and I’ve made changes based on their suggestions.

I realize this goes against conventional wisdom about writing an entire draft before revising. But revising along the way worked for me. And one of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far about writing a book is that I have to do what works for me, even if it doesn’t follow conventional wisdom.

What do I hope to accomplish during my revision stage?

Cut & Trim. My manuscript comes in at about 100,000 words. I want to get it down to 85,000 – 90,000, a length that will appeal to literary agents and publishing houses. That means I’ll be tossing out chapters and scenes I spent time and energy writing. But cutting is about more than losing words. Tightening my manuscript, getting rid of scenes I don’t really need, will improve the story.

Decide on a beginning. Several of my readers made a similar suggestion about the beginning of my book, that I may want to start differently. I’m going to give it a whirl and see whether that works better.

Consider the chapters all together. I’ve edited half my chapters, so I believe each works separately. But once I finish revising the rest of my pieces, it’ll be time to look at all thirty or so chapters together and see how they work as one unit.

Improve transitions. Several chapters could transition more smoothly. I’ll examine the beginnings and endings of each chapter, making changes where necessary, to make sure chapter breaks are seamless.

Reconsider all embarrassing scenes. During my first draft, I revealed everything about myself that would make the story interesting, knowing I could always delete those embarrassing scenes later. Now it’s time to decide whether I really want to include each one in the book. Am I comfortable with letting readers know all these personal details? In many ways, those embarrassing tidbits are what make my memoir interesting.

What do you focus on during your revision process?

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    15 Replies to “This is cause for celebration…”

    • Congrats! on finishing your draft. This is a major milestone and cause foe celebration. Do something crazy and fun today. Just don’t get caught.

      Stephen Tremp

    • Suzelle says:

      Congratulations, Lexi!

    • Karen Walker says:

      Woo-hoo, Alexis. That’s an awesome accomplishment. Just in time for Thanksgiving.
      I think your list of what you are covering in the revision process is very similar to mine. The only caution I have is removing embarrassing details because they are so “personal.” Personal is what makes memoir such a powerful genre. It helps us know the writer is human; helps us identify with each other. But only if these things serve your overall story arc.
      Good luck,

    • Peggy says:

      Yay! Congratulations!!
      I always enjoy the revision process, feeling the chapters get stronger and more cohesive. Sounds like you will too.
      Oh, and I say, cut all the mundane stuff, and keep all the embarrassing stuff! lol

    • Jamie says:

      Way to go! That is awesome. Step one of a thousand mile journey is underway (for the second time).

    • jessiecarty says:

      The fact that you seem to balance taking advise and going against conventional wisdom tells me whatever your heart is saying about the embarrassing bits is what you should do 🙂

      Congrats on getting that first draft done!

      I just read a very personal and amazingly well written memoir called “Invisible Sisters” by Jessica Handler if you are looking for something else to read. Like you have the time!

    • Megan Hill says:


    • Congratulations! That’s a major accomplishment. I go back and edit several different times, each time concentrating on one particular factor – like cutting scenes that don’t move the story forward, overuse of particular words and so on. I find it I let it sit for at least a week or two between edits, they are more productive.

    • Congratulations! Your blog is great, and your memoir sounds really interesting! Sounds like you’ve had some cool experiences with your travels, and though I’ve only just found your blog, I look forward to reading more! Best of luck with revisions!

    • littlehousesouthernprairie says:

      congrats — a complete draft is big doins’. good for you!

    • Jennifer says:

      Alexis that’s wonderful! Congratulations. I know you’re happy. It’s such a relief to be able to finally breathe, even just a little. And good for you for sticking with what works for you. Heaven knows I do NOTHING the conventional way 🙂

      Happy Thanksgiving,

    • Congrats. Thanks for sharing how you revise. I just finished my first draft of my memoir as well and am trying to figure out the best way to revise it.

    • Dana Brown says:

      Now that I’m midway through your posts on memoir I wish I would have started at the earliest post and worked my way to the most recent. I feel out of sync. Oh well. Anyway”¦

      Could you (did you) use any of the cuts from your manuscript for other projects, i.e. magazine articles, another book, etc.

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